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Palestinian Released from Detention Backs Plan for a Regional Conference

A prominent Palestinian activist, detained in Israel without trial for the past five months, was released Friday and may travel to Washington soon to meet Secretary of State James Baker.

Radwan Abu-Ayyash, chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Association, told reporters he had a number of invitations from Washington and European capitals to discuss the Middle East peace process.

But he may be at odds with others in the local Palestinian political community.

Abu-Ayyash spoke favorably of Baker’s plan for a regional peace conference, saying, “If a regional conference is a step toward an international conference, the thing is worth a thorough study and review.”

It was rejected, however, by the six Palestinian leaders who met with Baker here on April 9, led by Faisal Husseini, the senior Palestinian political figure in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israel has agreed in principle to a regional conference as a prologue to direct talks with the Arabs, but it rules out a larger international conference under the auspices of the United Nations.

Abu-Ayyash, a known supporter of Al Fatah, the largest military faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was arrested five months ago on suspicion of involvement in the intifada, or Palestinian uprising, an accusation he denied. The arrest occurred after a series of stabbing attacks against Jews following the Oct. 8 riots on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

His release Friday from the West Bank central prison in Nablus to an enthusiastic reception was recorded by dozens of foreign television news crews.

Abu-Ayyash returned to his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Whether and when he travels abroad will depend on getting the approval and necessary documents from the Israeli authorities.

Meanwhile, two other Palestinian activists remain under administrative arrest. Ziyyad Abu-Ziyyad, a journalist, and Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, a lecturer at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, are scheduled to be released next month.

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